How to get your audience to listen

Whether you’re having a one-on-one or giving a large business presentation, here's how you can get people to listen better while you present.


Derek Murray




Derek Murray

3 minutes

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
–Ernest Hemingway, American novelist

Sound is very powerful. It can increase sales, customer satisfaction, brand value, and much more. By understanding how sound affects us physiologically, emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally, we can better understand how leveraging it correctly can hook our audiences.

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Whether you’re having a one-on-one conversation with a colleague or giving a large business presentation, there are techniques to get people to listen better when we present.

Author and TED Talks speaker Julian Treasure couldn’t agree more. In Episode 21 of Think Deeply, Speak Simply, Julian shared that everyone listens differently, and sharpening your own listening skills can do wonders for winning your audience over. Here are his top two recommendations to inspire better listening.

Use the "HAIL" acronym

It’s never too late to win back your audience. In fact, Julian has discovered the four foundations of effective communication that will prevent you from losing them in the first place. 

  • H → HONESTY: Honesty is the best policy when it comes to public speaking. Throughout your presentation, remain clear and truthful at all times.
  • A → AUTHENTICITY: Be sure to show your listeners your true self through your words, voice, message, and body language.
  • I → INTEGRITY: Displaying integrity to your listeners will significantly boost your credibility, trustworthiness, and leadership capabilities.
  • L → LOVE: Never stop wishing people well and putting your audience’s needs and interests first.

If you get lost during your presentation, don’t be afraid to own up to it. Lean on the Honesty and Authenticity pillars by taking a moment to apologize and gather yourself. Memory lapses happen to everyone and owning yours will help humanize you and boost your reliability.

Listen consciously

Don’t forget to practice what you preach. If you want to inspire your audience to be better listeners, remember to exercise the muscle yourself. Listening takes work and it is constantly under threat. The world is riddled with plenty of noise and distractions battling for your attention. Refine your skills by recording yourself, seeking out coaching resources, and practicing often. Listening is how we learn, lead, innovate, and inspire.

Recognize that conscious listening is something you do, not just a natural capability people are born with. It will take time, effort, persistence, and patience to become a master. Take it seriously and acknowledge it as a huge advantage in life, relationships, business, and more. As a leader, you owe it to yourself and your audience to become a master at the instrument of the human voice.

Leverage these techniques to keep your audience captivated and strengthen your communication skills. You can listen to the complete Julian Treasure episode here.